Yoder, Colorado, a small community in the middle of the desert, has some of the lowest rates of technology ownership in the country. But you can’t tell that if you look in the classrooms of the local school that teaches 120 of community’s children and equips each one with a personal laptop. Edison School, part of the Frank school district, doesn’t stop with laptop. As Hechinger Reports writes, the small school has large digital ambitions for its students.
District administrators believe that a modern school can help its students cheat the destiny that is common to kids from poor small towns which surround Colorado Springs, like Yoder. Kids in the district get hands-on with gadgetry early on. In the elementary schools, teachers use iPads to help improve literacy, while in the high school, a course in computer science will soon become a requirement for graduation.
Last year, every student in the district was deemed proficient in math but those in charge aren’t stopping there. The goal is to prepare the kids for the bigger, more important classrooms that come after high school graduation: Technology is helping faculty get students college-ready.
This is a tough benchmark to hit for a town where kids rarely have the latest tech at home. That is why proving free machines, courtesy of the government, is key.
Yoder, like many similar mainly-rural districts has also had to turn to distance learning, to make sure that children who are too far away from school, or whose parents haven’t the means to get them to school regularly, also receive comprehensive education. The district also boasts an 100-student online only school that is open to all neighborhood kids who need it.
Some states have taken the lead that to make sure there is no digital divide between urban and rural students. Some, like Maine provide additional funding to rural school districts in order to help them obtain and train on leading-edge digital equipment. Still, state money frequently isn’t enough. To make sure instructors not only know how to use the technology, but also to how to make sure of it to make classroom instruction more effective takes time. And time that chronically underfunded and frequently under-staffed schools don’t have.
Rural America lags behind the rest of the country in Internet usage, making rural schools an important center of connectivity in the communities. In 2010, for instance, 57 percent of rural households had broadband Internet access, compared to 72 percent in urban areas, according to a November 2011 report by the U.S. Department of Commerce.